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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Capital of ABILENE, the tetrarchy of Lysanias ( Luke 3:1), on the eastern slope of Lebanon, in a region fertilized by the river Barada (Abana). Αbel (Hebrew) means "a grassy spot." The tradition of Abel's murder having taken place here (marked by his tomb 30 feet in length, Nebi Habil , on a hill) arose from confounding his name (properly Ηebel ) with Abel , a frequent name of rich meadowy places. The lively and refreshing green of the spot is noticed by Burckhardt. Abilene had originally been a tetrarchate under Lysanias, Ptolemy's son (Josephus, Ant. 14:13, 8; 18:6, 10), put to death 33 B.C., through Cleopatra's intrigues, who then took the province.

Next, it fell to Augustus, who rented it to Zenodorus, but as he did not clear it of robbers it was given to Herod the Great. At his death the southern part was added to Trachonitis and Ituraea, as a tetrarchy for his son Philip. The rest, the larger part, including Abila, was then bestowed on the Lysanias of  Luke 3:1, probably descended from the former Lysanias. Ten years afterward the emperor Caligula gave it to Agrippa I as "the tetrarchy of Lysanias." The division of Abilene between Lysanias and Philip accounts for the seeming difference between Luke who assigns it to Lysanias, and Josephus who assigns it to Philip. Abila stood in the Suk ("a market") wady Barada, a gorge where the river breaks down through the mountain Antilebanon toward the plain, with a semicircular background of cliffs three or four hundred feet high, between Heliopolis (Baalbec), 32 miles off; and Damascus,

18. Latin inscriptions found here respecting the repairs of the road by the Abileni, and concerning the 16th legion, identify the place.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Ab'ila See Abilene .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [3]

( Τὰ ῎Αβιλα and Ηα῾᾿Βίλη , Polyb. v. 71, 2; Ptolmy v. 18), the name of at least two places.

1. The capital of the "Abilene" of Lysanias ( Luke 3:1), and distinguished (by Josephus, Ant. 19:5, 1) from other places of the same name as the "Abila Of Lysanias" ( ῎Αβιλα Λυσανίου ). The word is evidently of Hebrew origin, signifying a Grassy plain. (See Abel)-. This place, however, is not to be confounded with any of the Biblical localities of the O.T. having this prefix, since it was situated beyond the bounds of Palestine in Coele-Syria (Antonin. Itin. p. 197, ed. Wessel), being the same with the "Abila of Lebanon" (A bila ad Libanum), between Damascus and Baalbek or Heliopolis (Reland, Paloest. p. 317, 458). Josephus (see Hudson's ed. p. 864, note) and others also write the name Abella ( ῎Αβελλα ), Abela ( Ἀβέλα ), and even Anbilla ( ῎Ανβιλλα ), assigning it to Phoenicia (Reland, Ib. p. 527-529). A medal is extant, bearing a bunch of grapes, with the inscription, "Abila Leucas," which Belleye (in the Transactions Of The Acad. Of Belles Lettres) refers to this city; but it has been shown to have a later date (Eckhel, 3:337, 345); for there is another medal of the same place, which bears a half figure of the river-god, with the inscription "Chrysoroas Claudiaion," a title which, although fixing the site to the river Chrysorrhoas, yet refers to the imperial name of Claudius. Perhaps Leucas and Claudiopolis were only later names of the same city; for we can hardly suppose that two cities of the size and importance which each of these evidently had, were located in the same vicinity and called by the same name. The existence of a large and well-built city in this region (Hogg's Damascus, 1:301) is attested by numerous ruins still found there (Bankes, in the Quart. Review, vol. 26, p. 388), containing inscriptions (De Saulcy, Narrative, 2:453). Some of these inscriptions (first published by Lebronne, Journal des Savans, 1827, and afterward by Urelli. Inscr. Lat. 4997, 4998) have lately been deciphered (Trans. Roy. Geog. Soc. 1851; Jour. Sac. Lit. July, 1853, p. 248 sq.), and one has been found to contain a definite account of certain public works executed under the Emperor M. Aurelius, "at the expense of the Abilenians;" thus identifying the spot where this is found with the ancient city of Abila (Bibliotheca Sacra, 1848, p. 85 sq.). It is the modern village Suk el-Barada, not far from the south bank of the river Barada (the ancient Chrysorrhoas), near the mouth of the long gorge through which the stream flows from above, and directly under the cliff (800 feet high) on which stands the Wely of Nebi Abil, or traditionary tomb of Abel (Bib. Sacra, 1853, p. 144). This tradition is an ancient one (Quaresmius, Eleucid. Terrae Sanctae, 7:7, 1; Maundrel, May 4), but apparently based upon an incorrect derivation of the name of the son of Adam. (See Abel). This spot is on the road from Heliopolis (Baalbek) to Damascus, at a distance corresponding to ancient notices (Reland, Paloest. p. 527, 528). The name Suk (i.e. Market, a frequent title of villages where produce is sold, and therefore indicating fertility) of Wady Barada first occurs in Burckhardt (Syria, p. 2), who speaks of the lively green of the neighborhood, which, no doubt, has suggested the name Abel in its Hebrew acceptance of meadow (see Robinson. Researches, new ed. 3:480 sq.). (See Abilene).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [4]

Abi´la, capital of the Abilene of Lysanias ( Luke 3:1); and distinguished from other places of the same name as the Abila of Lysanias, and (by Josephus) as 'the Abila of Lebanon.' Abila has been supposed to be the same as Abel-beth-Maacah, but without foundation, for that was a city of Naphtali, which Abila was not. About eighteen miles north-west of Damascus is Souk Wady Barrada, where an inscription was found by Mr. Bankes, which, beyond doubt, identifies that place with the Abila of Lysanias. Burckhardt states that there are here two villages, built on the opposite sides of the Barrada.